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Three UK and Vodafone Grab 1.4GHz Band to Boost 4G Speeds

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015 (4:35 pm) - Score 2,367
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Mobile operators Three UK and Vodafone have each secured a 20MHz slice of the 1.4GHz radio spectrum band (L-Band 1452-1492MHz) from Qualcomm, which the operators say could be used to help deliver 4G (LTE) based Mobile Broadband speeds that are “up to three times faster” than today’s.

Qualcomm originally grabbed the spectrum during 2008 for £8.3 million, although despite some grand ambitions they never actually did much with it. However all that started to change in May 2015 after the EU and Ofcom both approved the spectrum for use as a Supplemental Downlink (SDL) service (here), which made it attractive to mobile operators.

In Ofcom’s words, “SDL is a new Mobile Broadband technology which, using a mobile base station transmitter network provides additional bandwidth to deliver improved capacity for consumer mobile broadband services. Improved capacity can help service providers send more data to consumer devices, such as smartphones, tablets and laptops, at faster speeds.”

A Vodafone Spokesperson said:

The L-Band spectrum complements Vodafone’s existing low frequency 800MHz spectrum which travels further and penetrates better through walls than other higher frequency 4G signals.

Over time, Vodafone intends to combine its newly purchased spectrum with 800MHz using a new technology called 4G+, and also referred to as Carrier Aggregation, to deliver theoretical peak download speeds of up to three times faster than standard 4G.

Carrier Aggregation, which for example allows EE to combine 20MHz of their existing 1800MHz radio spectrum band and 20MHz of the latest 2.6GHz band to effectively double their capacity and boost performance (assuming you own supporting hardware), is a feature of true 4G services that are based on LTE-Advanced technology. Vodafone clearly intends to take a similar approach with L-Band.

It’s understood that today’s deal could be worth as much as £200 million, although both sales are currently still subject to final regulatory approval by Ofcom and other customary closing conditions. On top of that the 1.4GHz band is not widely used and so it could be the end of next year before the operators are able to take proper advantage of it.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he is also the founder of ISPreview since 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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